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p. 65


ONE year the Elephant had done a great deal of damage, breaking down the trees, drinking up the water in a time of scarcity, and eating the first tender crops from the fields.

 The King’s hunters tried in vain to destroy him, for Elephant knew many charms, and always escaped from their traps.

 At last the King offered the hand of his daughter in marriage to anyone who would rid the country of the pest.

 Tortoise went to the palace and offered to catch Elephant, and then made his preparations. Outside the town a large pit was dug, and on the top of it was laid a thin platform covered with velvet cloths and leopard-skins, like a throne.

 Then Tortoise set off into the forest, accompanied by slaves and drummers. Elephant was very much surprised to see p. 66 his little friend Tortoise riding in such state, and suspected a trap; but Tortoise said that the old King was dead and the people all wished Elephant to rule over them, because he was the greatest of all animals. When he heard this, Elephant was flattered, and agreed to accompany Tortoise to the town. But when he went up on to the platform to be crowned King, the wood gave way beneath him, and he crashed down into the pit and was speedily slain by the King’s hunters.

 All the people rejoiced, and praised the cunning of Tortoise, who went to the palace to receive his bride. But the King refused to give his daughter to such an insignificant creature, and Tortoise determined to have a revenge. When the new crops were just ripening, he called together all the field-mice and elves, and asked them to eat up and carry away the corn. They were only too pleased with the idea, and the farmers in distress found the fields quite bare.

 Now there was prospect of a famine in p. 67 the land, and the King offered the same reward as before to anyone who would rid the country of the pests.

 Tortoise once again appeared in the palace and offered his help. The King was eager enough to accept it, but Tortoise cautiously refused to do anything until the Princess became his bride.

 The King was thus forced to consent to the marriage, and when it had taken place, Tortoise, true to his word, called together all the mice and elves and showed them a platform loaded with dainty morsels of food. He then addressed them as follows:

 “The people are so distressed at the damage you have done, that they have prepared this feast for you, and they promise to do the same twice every year, before the harvesting of the first and second crops, if you will agree not to touch the corn in the fields.”

 The little creatures all consented, and marched in a great crowd to the platform, which they soon cleared.

p. 68

 The King and his people were not very pleased to hear of this arrangement, but they were so afraid of Tortoise that they could not complain, and after that the mice and elves never troubled the country again.